Radio 2

Halle puts Leopold II back on his pedestal with the message “Halle won’t bow to vandalism”

The municipal authorities in the Flemish Brabant town of Halle have put back a bust of King Leopold II onto its pedestal in a park in the town centre. The bust was a number of statues and busts of the controversial second King of the Belgians across the country to have suffered vandalism. Leopold II is controversial due to the role he played in atrocities committed in the Congo Free State that was his personal property between 1885 and 1908. 

The discussion about whether it is appropriate to display statues of Leopold II in parks and other public places without any explanation of the role he played in the subjugation of the Congolese people was fuelled by the international wave of protest about the death of the Afro-American George Floyd at the hands of the police.

A few weeks ago the bust in the Albert Park in Halle, a town around 15 kilometres southwest of Brussels, was daubed with paint and pulled of its pedestal. The bust has since been cleaned and on Friday was put back up onto its pedestal by council workers. The local authority has put a plaque on the pedestal that reads “Halle won’t bow to vandalism”.

While other towns and cities such as Leuven (Flemish Brabant) and Ghent (East Flanders) have removed effigies of Leopold II, the authorities in Halle have decided not to. The socialist Mayor of Marc Snoeck told VRT Radio 2 Flemish Brabant that “By putting the bust back the town council wants to send out the signal that vandalism can never be the starting point for a good debate”.

Nevertheless, Mr Snoeck added that he and his team of aldermen are ready to discuss whether the bust should remain where it is. He added that an extra plaque contextualising King Leopold II role will be added at a later date. 

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